Childhood & Early Life
Tech N9ne was born as Aaron Dontez Yates on November 8, 1971 in Kansas City, Missouri. His father, Carlton Cook, a man of low morality, lived in Los Angeles, where he worked in the Police Department (LAPD). He abandoned the family when Aaron was very young, but often visited Kansas City.
Aaron remembers seeing his biological father for the first time when he was five years old. Whenever he came to Kansas City he would put up with his own mother, whom Aaron called May Ma and threw lavish parties. As a child, Aaron enjoyed them very much.
Aaron was brought by her mother, Maude Sue Yates-Khalifah, a proficient musician, in strict Christian tradition. They lived in a small house in the Wayne Miner projects with his grandmother and a few aunts and uncles. Liquors and parties were taboos in their home.
As a young boy, Aaron was greatly disturbed by his mother’s epilepsy and lupus, from which she had been suffering since she was 18. In his distress, he began to search for ‘God’, roaming around in the abandoned buildings with his best friend, Brian Dennis, hoping to film a ghost.
When Aaron was twelve year old, his mother married Abdul Hassan Khalifah, a Muslim gentleman. Thereafter, he moved to a new house with his mother and stepfather, eventually having two half-brothers, Hakim Khalifah and Kiraameen Khalifah, and one half-sister, Basimah Khalifah, from this union.
Brought up in a religious household, he went to the church several times a week, where he was introduced to the church music. At home, he studied Islam with his stepfather and sang gospel songs with his mother. For his formal education, he was sent to Southwest High School.
Although rap music was strictly banned in the household, rapping came naturally to Aaron from a very early age. It is said that he rapped the letters in his name so that he could memorize it more easily.
He was formally introduced to rap music when his uncle gave him a record called ‘Rap Dirty’ by Blowfly. Eventually, he collected many other records, played by Soulsonic Force, NWA, Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions etc, hiding them in a neighbor's house lest they were discovered by his stepfather.
By 1984, he was immersed in music, trying to perfect his rhythm, gaining recognition as a dancer and a rapper, resulting in a conflict with his stepfather, who never approved of rap music. Finally at the age of 17, he left home to move in with his grandmother.
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Living with his grandmother, Tech N9ne for the first time enjoyed freedom to pursue his goal. It also introduced him to a darker side of life. Nonetheless, he continued to dance and sing, attracting the attention of a girl named Tanya, who would later become known as rapper Sole.
Tanya invited him to join her at a rap convention in New Orleans, eventually providing him with his first break. In late 1991, when he was just 20 years old, he became a member of ‘Black Mafia’, a rap group formed in the same year.
In 1993, he moved to Los Angeles with few of his fellow musicians including Dynomack and Mark Hill. There they were offered their first recording deal with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Unfortunately, it failed to materialize and they returned to Kansas City crestfallen.
One day in 1993, after they had returned to Kansas City, they were talking about the missed opportunity at Los Angeles. All of a sudden, Mark Hill said that they could not do anything because they were already in the ‘Nut House’. It gave Tech N9ne a new idea.
He called his childhood friend, Brian Dennis, declaring that he was going to form a new group called ‘Nnutthowze’. Eventually the group was formed and they did a few shows in their region before it broke up.
In 1995, he joined his third group, ‘57th Street Rogue Dog Villians’, formed in the same year, courting glimpses of success with his singles like ‘It’s On Now’ and ‘Let’s Get Fucked Up’. Later in 1999, the group released their first album, ‘My Dogs for Life’, in which he sang number of songs.
In 1997, while he was still with 57th Street Rogue Dog Villians, Tech N9ne signed in with Qwest Records, preparing for what was to be his debut album, ‘Be Warned’. But once the album was complete, Qwest Records decided to shelve it, leaving him in a lurch.
Also in 1997, he joined ‘The Regime’, a hip hop collective created by rapper Yukmouth. In the same year, he debuted in film, featuring on the soundtrack for ‘Gang Related’.
On November 9, 1999, he had his debut album, ‘The Calm Before the Storm’, released through Midwestside Records. Recorded between 1996 and 1999, the album contains fifteen tracks, among which ‘Questions’ had earlier appeared in the soundtrack of ‘Gang Related’.
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Also in 1999, he received an offer to form his own label from Travis O'Guin, an established businessman trying to get entry into music industry. Together, they formed ‘Strange Music’ on a 50/50 profit sharing basis.
His second studio album, ‘The Worst’ was released on September 12, 2000 through Midwestside Records. By then, Strange Music had made a deal with JCOR Entertainment and his third studio album, ‘Anghellic’ was released by them on August 28, 2001.
Since JCOR Entertainment failed to promote ‘Anghellic’, they now made fresh deal with MSC Entertainment, releasing Tech N9ne’s fourth studio album, ‘Absolute Power’ through them on September 24, 2002. It was a great hit, selling over 358, 000 copies and picking at #79 on the Billboard 200.
He encouraged his fans to officially download ‘Absolute Power’ for free, which increased the number of his listeners manifold. Also from 2002, he began to work on his next studio album, ‘Everready (The Religion)’. The album took four years to complete and was ultimately released on November 7, 2006.
On July 17, 2007, he released ‘Misery Loves Kompany’, the first album of the ‘Collabos’ series, which was also his sixth studio album. Recorded in one month, it was a huge hit, debuting at number 49 on the U.S. Billboard 200, having 13,000 copies sold in the first week.
On July 1, 2008, Tech N9ne released his seventh studio album, ‘Killer’. Recorded between January and March 2008, it debuted at #12 on the Billboard 200, selling 36,199 copies in its first week alone. By September, he had more than one million album sold over his entire catalogue.
In 2009, he had two albums released. ‘Sickology 101’, his eighth studio album, second in the ‘Collabos’ series, was released on April 28. On October 26, he released ‘K.O.D.’, another great hit debuting at number 14 on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 30,326 copies in its first week alone.
In 2010, he released only one album,’ The Gates Mixed Plate’. Named after ‘Gates Bar-B-Q’, a Kansas City restaurant, the album is full of light party music, selling 17,000 copies in the first week alone. Also in the same year, he made his acting debut, appearing in ‘Big Money Rustlas’.
In 2011, he released his eleventh and twelfth albums; 'All 6's and 7's' and ‘Welcome to Strangeland’, the latter being the fourth album in his ‘Collabos’ series. In the same year, he also embarked on ‘All 6's and 7's: The Tour’ covering 62 shows from May 26 and July 6.
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Tech N9ne spent 2012 preparing for his thirteenth studio album, ‘Something Else’, also releasing number of EPs like ‘E.B.A.H.’ (Evil Brain Angel Heart) and ‘Boiling Point’. ‘Something Else’ was finally released on July 30, 2013, receiving widespread acclaim, debuting at number four on the US Billboard 200.
In 2014, Tech N9ne launched his "Independent Grind" tour, which began on April 9, and ended in Kansas City on June 28. Meanwhile on May 6, he released his fourteenth studio album, ‘Strangeulation’, which debuted at number five on the US Billboard 200. It was also his fifth album in his Collabos series.
Also in 2014, he appeared in ‘Vengeance', a direct-to-video film. In the following year, he appeared in two more films’; as Zombie in 'Night of the Living Dead: Darkest Dawn' and as the Librarian in ‘Alleluia! The Devil's Carnival'.
In 2015, he released two albums; ‘Special Effects’ on May 4 and ‘Strangeulation Vol. II’ on November 20, the latter being his sixth ‘Collabos’ album. While both of them were great hits, ‘Special Effects’ debuted at 4 on the US Billboard 200 and ‘Strangeulation Vol. II’ at number 25.
In spring 2016, Tech N9ne went on ‘Independent Powerhouse Tour’, in which he was accompanied by fellow Strange members. Concurrently, he continued recording the tracks of his next studio album, ‘The Storm’, which was finally released on December 9, 2016.
In 2017, he released his last two ‘Collabos’ series albums; ‘Dominion’ (on April 7) and ‘Strange Reign’ (on October 13).
His latest album, ‘Planet’, released on March 2, 2018, debuted at no 14 on the US Billboard 200.